Thakkar, M.P. (J)
What normal guidelines are to be followed so as to identify the "rarest of rare cases" formula for imposing death sentence?
The principle of `rarest of rare cases' came up for consideration and elaboration in this case . It was a case of extraordinary brutality. On account of a family feud Machhi Singh the main accused in the case, along with eleven accomplices, in course of a single night, conducted raids on a number of villages killing seventeen people, men, women and children for no reason other than they were related to one Amar Singh and his sister Piyaro Bai.
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It was observed by the court that the community as a whole may endorse capital punishment when its collective conscience is so shocked that it will expect the Judiciary to give death penalty irrespective of their personal opinions. Thus the Court framed guidelines mentioned below
(1) Manner of Commission of Murder: When the murder is committed in an extremely brutal, grotesque, diabolical. revolting, or dastardly manner so as to arouse intense and extreme indignation of the community. For instance:
- When the house of the victim is set aflame with the end in view to roast him alive in the house.
- When the victim is subjected to inhuman acts of torture or cruelty in order to bring about his or her death.
- When the body of the victim is cut into pieces or his body is dismembered in a fiendish manner.
(2) Motive for Commission of murder: When the murder is committed for a motive which evince total depravity and meanness. For instance
- Whena hired assassin commits murder for the sake of money or reward
- a cold blooded murder is committed with a deliberate design in order to inherit property or to gain control over property of a ward or a person under the control of the murderer or visa-vis whom the murderer is in a dominating position or in a position of trust.
- a murder is committed in the course for betrayal of the motherland.
(3) Anti Social or Socially abhorrent nature of the crime
- When murder of a Scheduled Caste or minority community etc., is committed not for personal reasons but in circumstances which arouse social wrath. For instance when such a crime is committed in order to terrorize such persons and frighten them into fleeing from a place or in order to deprive them of, or make them with a view to reverse past injustices and in order to restore the social balance.
- In cases of 'bride burning' and what are known as 'dowry deaths' or when murder is committed in order to remarry for the sake of extracting dowry once again or to marry another woman on account of infatuation.
(4) Magnitude of Crime: When the crime is enormous in proportion. For instance when multiple murders say of all or almost all the members of a family or a large number of persons of a particular caste, community, or locality, are committed.
(5) Personality of Victim of murder: When the victim of murder is
- an innocent child who could not have or has not provided even an excuse, much less a provocation, for murder
- a helpless woman or a person rendered helpless by old age or infirmity
- when the victim is a person vis a vis whom the murderer is in a position of domination or trust
- when the victim is a public figure generally loved and respected by the community for the services rendered by him and the murder is committed for political or similar reasons other than personal reasons.
The circumstances of the case do reveal that it was a cold- blooded murder and the victims were helpless and undefended. The offence committed was of an exceptionally depraved and heinous character. The court uphold the view concurrently taken by the Sessions Court and the High Court that extreme penalty of death requires to be imposed on appellants (1) Machhi Singh (2) Kashmir Singh son of Arjan Singh (3) Jagir Singh. Accordingly the death sentence was confirmed. Benefit of reasonable doubt was given to Mohinder Singh as there was lacuna in the evidence that he was in possession of the rifle.
“We are of the opinion that insofar as these three appellants are concerned the rarest of rare cases rule prescribed in Bachan Singh's case (Supra) is clearly attracted and sentence of death is called for. We are unable to persuade ourselves that a sentence of imprisonment for life will be adequate in the circumstances of the crime. We therefore fully uphold the view concurrently taken by the Sessions Court and the High Court that extreme penalty of death requires to be imposed on appellants (1) Machhi Singh (2) Kashmir Singh son of Arjan Singh (3) Jagir Singh. We accordingly confirm the death sentence imposed on them and dismiss their appeals.”